Home renovations are the main driver of heat pump costs

Demand for electric heating, driven by increased use of heat pumps, will cause generation costs to rise by as much as 46%, according to a new ESRI study.

As part of the Government’s Climate Action Plan, there is a commitment to install 600,000 heat pumps in homes by 2030, to help offset energy-related CO2 emissions.

Heat demand in Ireland accounts for around 40% of energy consumption, with residential home heating accounting for 25% of energy-related CO2 emissions.

The study by the Institute for Economic and Social Research has for the first time examined what the likely impact of this increased electrification will be on our heating systems.

Muireann Lynch, ESRI principal investigator and co-author of the paper, said there are many costs associated with installing heat pumps in homes.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said: “You also have to take into account the cost of doing the modernization in the home and that’s also quite high.

“For most households that would be prohibitively expensive and that’s why you can get grants from the Irish Sustainable Energy Authority, but that doesn’t cover the full cost.”

Aerothermal heat pumps can cost between €12,000 and €18,000.

“It’s certainly not cheap, but it could still be the cheapest. Heat is very difficult to decarbonize. Alternatives to decarbonize heat would be based on technologies like biomethane.”

“This is where we don’t retrofit our homes, we still burn gas in our boilers, but that gas is from biological sources and therefore has no net increase in emissions associated with it,” added Dr. Lynch.

“One of the main things about a heat pump is that the heat is what we call low-grade. For a heat pump to bring your house to a comfortable temperature, your house must have a good standard of energy efficiency.

“That’s why retrofitting homes to a B2 BER rating is part of the policy we’re considering here. It is not enough to put a heat pump in an existing house.

“What we found was that an increase in electricity generation technology was required. We didn’t actually see an increase in transmission investment required, but by far the largest component of the cost of this policy was the cost of retrofit homes — up to a B2 BER level and the cost of installing the heat pumps themselves,” explained Dr. Lynch.

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